May 1, 2020

Signals Lost: Pandemic Edition

You've probably noticed, but there's a global pandemic going on at the moment. Lots of people are spending more time indoors, resulting in more games being played (hey, how's that backlog coming along?), more shows being streamed, and more internet being surfed. So, we thought we'd take some of this surplus time to scrape our Master List and see whether any of these games are actually still in development.

We poke through the list every now and again to look for game dev websites that no longer exist, Twitter accounts that haven't been updated in the past year, or games that have been in Early Access since... forever, and then we take those games off our radar. Will they ever come back? Maybe. Hopefully the early access stuff will eventually reach a final state, even though they're in no hurry to get there. As for the games where nothing seems to be happening, perhaps the developers are so hard at work that they're not posting anything... but probably not. And with no activity to track, their signals are lost.

Black Witchcraft
Developer Quattro Gear was creating a combo-based action-RPG entitled Black Witchcraft and inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. However, the website has never been updated since the game was originally announced, and last post on the official Facebook page was from 2017. Here was our initial take: The game features high-rez gothic artwork and some dark and twisted enemy and boss designs. Players control a witch with mechanical legs who carries a suitcase with a big red eye on the side. The suitcase is able to transform into a number of weapons, including a spear and a scythe for up-close action, and it can extend into a minigun for long-range asskickery.

Catacomb Kids
This game has been in Steam Early Access since 2015, but it is still receiving regular updates. Developer FourBitFriday, a.k.a. Tyriq Plummer, has worked as an animator on a number of 2D games, including Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! Now he’s offering up a game of his own in the form of roguelike platformer Catacomb Kids. Navigating this procedurally generated world requires nimble fingers and apt use of swords and sorcery to destroy loads of enemies who wish to end you. Weapons include swords, axes, spears, and daggers, while magic powers allow you to freeze your opponents, poison them, or simply burn them alive. Enhanced weaponry can be found by exploring the dungeon and opening treasure chests. The game features 20 floors with four different gameplay-altering themes, more than a dozen spells, numerous character classes, several bosses and minibosses, and local competitive multiplayer.

This game has been in Steam Early Access since 2015, but it is still receiving regular updates. MegaSphere is an action platformer under development by Anton Kudin. The game puts you and your giant gun up against a bunch of robotic baddies in a procedurally-generated sci-fi environment. Players have multiple weapons at their disposal, including a bouncing energy shot, a flamethrower, exploding rockets, and grenades, which may be supplemented by a number of weapon and suit upgrades. Players can even blast their way through certain sections of the environment to dig tunnels and blast through floors and ceilings in order to reach new areas or search for hidden items.

Möira, was under development by Onagro Studios, but according to the Steam store page, it's "coming soon" with an expected release in 2017, which is also what the press kit says. Things seemed to have been chugging along with a successful Kickstarter campaign that had ongoing updates, but there haven't been any updates since October of 2019. Oh, and the developer's website doesn't exist any more. Here's what we originally had to say:

Möira is an action platformer that mixes the aesthetics of the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color. You play the part of Rubick, a magician's apprentice on a quest to rescue his kidnapped master. Rubick is able to use his magic to copy the abilities of his enemies, as learning new spells from NPC's and defeated bosses, and he is able to combine the effects of some of these spells for new effects. Players will need to make the most of these combinations, as enemies are resistant to certain spell effects and weak against others. Levels are nonlinear, so players will need to explore them fully in order to move forward and learn the necessary abilities to overcome their enemies.

This game has been in Steam Early Access since 2015, and it's even got a publishing deal with Devolver Digital. Development is ongoing, with updates being posted on the developer's Twitch, but you wouldn't know that this is an active project by looking at the Steam store page, where the last update was in 2017. Here's what we had to say:

Developer Chris “c3sk” Eskins presents Noct, a top-down multiplayer survival horror game with a gritty greyscale aesthetic mimicking an aerial thermal vision camera. For reasons unknown, Earth has been plunged into darkness, and terrible creatures known as the Nocturnal now roam the land. Players must blast away these monstrosities with weapons and ammo scavenged in the environment, as well as survive life in the wasteland by ransacking vacant buildings to seek out food and other useful items. While the game is played from a top-down perspective, players are only able to see what is directly in the line of sight for their character, meaning that a lurking terror might be lying in wait around the next corner. The game may be played online with other players or as a solo campaign.

Path to the Sky
This one made it to Steam Early Access in 2016 but hasn't received updates in many years, and the developer has announced that work on the game has been halted. Here's what we originally had to say: DekDev continues the recent trend of roguelike action platforming, but flips the old structure on its head. Rather than descending ever deeper into more deadly and dangerous dungeons, the action in Path to the Sky focuses on ascent. As the player climbs ever higher in this vertically oriented procedurally generated world, the enemies become ever more difficult to defeat. The chunky sprites and outdoor environments are reminiscent of Risk of Rain, but focuses much more on climbing, melee attacks, and aerial combat.

Phase Edge
Here we have a case where the name of the game and the name of the developer changed while the game was underway. Originally called zX - Hyperblast under development by retroFuture, the game became Phase Edge under development by Punk Arcade. The game even has a demo up on Itch that was released in 2016 and there's a page on Humble Store where you can pre-order it, but all of the materials there are also from 2016. And the expected release date listed in the press kit? You guessed it: 2016. Here's what we originally had to say about the game:

South African one-man developer Punk Arcade is taking the shmup into action-adventure territory with Phase Edge. Gone are forced scrolling environments, replaced with a series of large caverns that can be traversed at will with your small but heavily armed ship. As in many shmups, your ship’s projectiles can be upgraded, but you also have a melee attack in the form of a pair of blades that emerge from the front of your ship. These blades allow you to deflect enemy bullets while also powering up your special weapon, encouraging up-close attacks. In addition to exploration, players will still face the more traditional enemy waves and bullet sprays while they attempt to avoid lasers, lava, and other environmental hazards.

Secrets of Grindea
This one has been in Steam Early Access since 2015, but it is still receiving regular updates. The structure if Secrets of Grindea (site should be familiar to Zelda fans, as the lead character walks through town, chatting it up with NPC’s, hacking hedgerows with a sword, and even scaring off the local chickens. But where Grindea makes its departure from the legacy is in its gameplay focus and character customization. The goal of the hero (or heroine, if you choose) is to become the world’s greatest Collector as he sets off on a quest to collect as many rare and valuable items as he can. There’s also a robust character creation and skill system that allows you to level up and apply points to a number of different attributes, allowing the player to craft a character to his liking. And, the entire game can be played in single player or with up to 4 players in co-op mode. The artwork is notable as well, featuring detailed spritework and animations, and even showing equipment changes on the main character.

In Steam Early Access since 2016, with no new updates since 2018. The developer's work on another project entitled Derail Valley ended up... um, derailing the game somewhat (see what I did there), but the developer has continued to provide updates via the comments section of the store page and intends to see development through to completion. Here's what we had to say about it:

Switchcars, from developer Altfuture, is roguelike arcade-style action game featuring a fellow who is racing madly across the landscape and trying desperately to reach the year 2055. The only problem? Spacetime is a huge mess, and he keeps leaping between locations and time periods while also being chased by gigantic alien space worms. The game offers more than 1,000 driveable vehicles, with different vehicles becoming available as you enter different time periods (from 1950-2055), but not all of them are suitable in all situations. For instance, you may find yourself hurtling down the tracks in a train when a timeslip sends you onto a highway, which quickly grinds you to a halt. The player must switch between vehicles, including cars, trucks, trains, boats, helicopters, and many others while dealing with oncoming traffic, draining fuel, blown tires, and tuckered out horses, requiring the player to make another quick switch or meet his end.

This game had been percolating for a long time, originally under development by Renegade Kid, the studio known for Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter. However, that studio went out of business, leaving development the hands of Atooi, a new studio headed by Renegade Kid founder Jools Watsham. But after releasing Chicken Wiggle to limited success on the 3DS, the studio Kickstarted an HD Switch port called Hatch Tales, for which development is now underway. So that's a lot of time spent on stuff that's not Treasurenauts, basically. Here's what we had to say about the game:

Treasurenauts focuses on a motley crew of adventurers, heroes, and some oddball characters (like a ninja) as they seek treasure. You can customize your character’s appearance and select their weapon, with weapons falling into melee, projectile, and explosive categories, each offering strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the sword is fast but has a short range, whereas the bomb is powerful but has a low speed, and firearms can fire over long distances but don’t do as much damage. Players can go it alone or team up with a second player in local co-op for platforming, boss fighting, and treasure hunting, all the while unlocking new abilities (like a double jump) and entirely new playable characters.


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